By Ravindra Velip (Mining Activist & Tribal Youth Leader)
The Supreme Court Judgment in Writ Petition 435 of 2012 came down heavily on mining industry in Goa. With respect to Goa State Pollution Control Board, Supreme Court in Para 71 of the judgment issued specific direction VI to control pollution and exercise its powers under Air and Water Act. The direction VI is replicated below
Direction VI: the Goa Pollution Control Board will strictly monitor the air and water pollution in the mining areas and exercise powers available to it under the 1974 Act and 1981 Act including the powers under Section 33A of the 1974 Act and Section 31A of the 1981 Act and furnish all relevant data to the Expert Committee.
The GSPCB was woken up from their long sleep when Aam Aadmi Party put Gherao in their office on 26thApril 2017 and subsequent to that Dr. Claude Alvares wrote to the officials of GSPCB about filing contempt petition against them.
The GSPCB has now issued show cause notices to the mining companies at Sonshi and the mining activities are suspended. The GSPCB themselves allowed mining companies to violate their own norms and conditions for more than five months. Please see the attached copy of Consent to operate issued by GSPCB and read the (star marked) norms.
So the questions arises, why did Sonshi villagers were arrested? Why charges were filed against them and why they were kept in judicial lockup for about 9 days? It was GSPCB who failed to act. It was the GSPCB who violated the basic fundamental right of Sonshi villagers. Right to fresh air and water, right to live. But unfortunately the villagers of Sonshi who protested were further harassed when mining companies lodged false and fabricated complaints against them. It was the authorities who failed to take action against mining companies who carried out illegal mining and transportation violating all the norms and guideline, which is contempt of the Supreme Court order. It seems, the GSPCB is in the pockets of powerful mining companies like Fomento and Vedanta. As a punishment, all the concern officials and Board of Directors of GSPCB must be suspended/disqualified.
When we visited Sonshi village on 17th April 2017, we witnessed a rampant and negligent mining transportation taking place through the village. We recorded 26 trucks per minute which were plying on the village road. When inquired with the villagers, they told that about 1200 trucks ply daily converting about 10,000 to 12000 daily trips through the village road. That means, considering the average quantity of 10 Tonne per truck, the total quantity of ore transported daily from 6 mining leases is approx 0.1 MT per day. The letter written by Police Inspector of Valpoi Police station to the Dy.Collector acknowledges the same.
The lease wise approved quantity of ore as per the records of GSPCB in Sonshi village is as follows.
1. TC NO. 98/1952 – 0.135 MT/annum
2. TC NO. 05/1954 – 0.1498 MT/annum
3. TC NO. 20/1954 – 0.1498 MT/annum
4. TC NO. 70/1951 – 0.541 MT/annum
5. TC NO. 19/1958 – 0.190 MT/annum
6. TC NO. 16/1955 – 0.197 MT/annum
The total comes to 1.3626 MT.
The Supreme Court has put a cap of 20MT per annum out which the mines department has allowed 4 MT to excavate and transport only from Sonshi village itself. The blind GSPCB also issued consent for the same.
Now the again question arises, is it only the GSPCB is responsible? From the above records we can observe that the mines department is equally responsible. As per the Supreme Court judgment, all the mining operations after 22.11.2007 till the suspension of mining in the year 2012 were illegal. It was also held by the Supreme Court that as per article 39(b) of Constitution of India, the mineral resources belongs to the people of Goa and the State government is merely a trustee. Sadly, even after this judgment; the State government renewed the leases in the name of same mining companies who carried out illegal mining in the past. Where is the trust?
There is one interim order issued by the Supreme Court in Writ Petition 435 of 2012 on 11.11.2013. The order was regarding e –auctioning of stacked ore during pendency of the PIL. The then Advocate General of Goa State, Atmaram Nadkarni submitted before the SC through his written arguments that an Inventory of the stacked ore has been conducted by the department of mines & geology of Goa state and that the stacked ore should be allowed to e –auction. AG further assured to the SC that The Goa (Prevention of illegal mining, storage and transportation of minerals) Rules, 2013 have been framed and notified so that no illegal mining takes place. Based on these submission, the SC appointed a 3 member monitoring committee direction to verify the inventory first before e –auction.
I had asked for an inspection to the Directorate of Mines & Geology under RTI Act regarding Inventory of the ore at TC 12/53 and 59/51 at Caurem Maina area. The authorities refused me to inspect the files. It took me more than 2 years to get directions from the State Information Commission which allowed me to inspect the files. I was totally shocked to see that the department do not have any file pertaining to inventory of the ore and that the director Shri. Prasanna Acharya is totally relied on the information submitted by the respective leaseholders declaring their stacks of Iron ore. Director of Mines & Geology acted as the mining companies are his boss. The submissions made before the SC was a total lie. The illegally excavated ore is being shifted at the guise of e –auction to destroy the evidences of illegal mining. An Intervention Application has been filed in this regard before SC which is coming up for hearing on 2nd May 2017.
The Director of Mines & Geology, Shri. Prasanna Acharya is following the same path of then director Shri. Lolyekar who was suspended in illegal mining scam. E – auction of ore is a white collar scam as there are no records of inventory ore available in the office of the mines department. He must be sacked first in order to put halt on the illegalities that are taking place in mining industry.
Shri. Prasanna Acharya has allocated 1.36 MT alone for the leases situated in the Sonshi village and allowed rampant, uncontrolled and unmanaged transportation through Sonshi village. The director of mines department has allowed mining companies to violate Rule Rule 10, 17 (6) (7) (9) (10), 21 (7) & (8) and 23 of Goa (Prevention of Illegal Mining, Storage and Transportation of Minerals) Rules, 2013. The mining companies, the GSPCB and the mines department are in contempt of Supreme Court order and judgment.
Is this one of the reason that despite getting no majority, BJP hooked and crooked Goans mandate to form the government after the last assembly elections? What is the future Goa?